The private women's college Bryn Mawr emailed a group of students late last week encouraging them to join the new school-sponsored weight loss program. Students received the email based on their elevated body mass index, data that was mined from their medical records collected by the college's Health Center.
The email instructed the possibly pudgy ladies to "give a HOOT!" about their weight. This was a reference, we presume, to the school's svelte avian mascot, an owl.
"I'm clearly on a 'fat list'," one student wrote to Jezebel after receiving the email. She added: "I'm a size 6." From her email:
"They know who has an elevated BMI from our non-weight related visits to the Heath Center and I had to go at the beginning of my frosh year regarding vaccination history, once I got a tick bite, another time I just wanted a physical, but every time the first thing they do is take your vitals—height, weight, blood pressure, heart rate, etc. I definitely have never gone there for weight loss and am not interested in losing weight."
Some students who were treated at the Health Center for their weight—including those recovering from an eating disorders like anorexia—also received the email.
"The dishes and cups in the dining hall have become smaller every year,"says a pre- law student who received the "Hoot" email writes. "The encouragement by administration to lose weight has increased. And hall leaders are being told to lessen the number of food-related get togethers."
Bryn Mawr's decision to ping students with elevated BMI's about a weight loss program raises this fun scenario: what other private medical data would the college feel kosher about "outreaching" to students over?
What if you tested positive for chlamydia during your freshman year (and what Seven Sisters frosh hasn't these days)? What if the college pinged everybody who tested positive about a *free* sexual health workshop, encouraging them to give a hoot? If you attended then you would know everyone on that room was on the Clap List. And everyone there would know that you at one time had an STD. This is not something you would do with private medical data.
That was dumb, Bryn Mawr! Dummies! Perhaps recognizing this, one doctor from the health center responded to a Bryn Mawr student included in the email, blaming her inclusion on an administrative error:
Please accept my deepest apology for you having received this message. It was completely inappropriate to send it to you. In way of explanation (but not excuse) at one time a nurse entered your height incorrectly and you appeared on the list of students who would qualify for the program. This error pointed out to me that our screening processes are inadequate. THey [sic] will be improved.
We will also eliminate the first line of the email. While it personalizes the message for some, it could be disturbing for some of the people who may even be appropriate for the class. I would be happy to discuss this with you further if you would like.
Once again, I apologize for the error.
Image via ewitch/Flickr